Berkshire Scenic Railway set to roll, but Adams station out of reach


ADAMS — Berkshire Scenic Railway is set to start its first year of Hoosac Valley train rides in May, but plans to extend the line to the new Adams Station remain stalled.

Completion of the last section of track is awaiting action by the state, which owns the line, but has yet to sign off on spending approximately $1 million for the extension.

"There's still about a mile of work to be done," said Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco. "We just want to get that last bit done soon because it is an economic development project that would benefit both towns."

Mazzucco and North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright met last week with Jay Ash, the Massachusetts secretary of housing and economic development, seeking information on the outlook for the train line's completion.

He said they were told that the state is still committed to the project, but because the Department of Transportation has a long list of capital projects, some that involved safety issues, this project didn't make it onto the schedule of projects to be funded this year.

It is possible that the roster could still be amended, or that additional state revenue could be identified, to get it into the queue for this summer, but otherwise, it might make it onto next year's project list.

The Department of Transportation bought the train line and prepared the rest of the tracks for the scenic railway last summer. Part of the budget for that job included the purchase of materials to extend the line just under a mile south to the new Adams Station, which was also completed last year.

The understanding was that the state would come back and finish laying the rest of the line and complete the project this year so both towns could start to see the benefit of an increase in tourist visits.

Meanwhile, work continues on the adjacent extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, which will extend the hike/bike trail north to Lime Street and will likely be open by fall. A later project will bring the rail trail further north to McCann Technical School.

But the rail line was a part of that overall strategy — the rail line and the hike/bike trail run parallel through Adams. The south end of the scenic rail line currently ends at Lime Street.

"We're still working with all levels of state government to get this thing moving in this calendar year," Alcombright said. "We could be ready to provide rides through the whole route if we could just get the track finished."

Meanwhile, Berkshire Scenic Railway officials are readying for the start of regular weekend excursions on the Hoosac Valley line from North Adams to Adams from May through September. The Fall Foliage schedule also has been set, with additional trips scheduled for a number of federal holidays.

Scheduling is set for four trips every Saturday and Sunday from May 28 to Sept. 18; and for Fall Foliage from Sept. 28 through Oct. 18.

There also will be holiday excursions on federal holidays Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Trips are also planned for Columbus Day.

The Christmas holidays will be marked with trips on the Tinseliner Express every weekend from Nov. 25 through Dec. 18. It will be a celebration in the style of a post-WWII Christmas.

Friday Night Rail Cruises also are in development, and the train is available for charter excursion by local companies or groups looking for a different way to celebrate accomplishments or benchmarks.

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